Small Business Low On Cash? – Try Barter: By John LaRosa, Marketdata

Small Business Low On Cash? – Try Barter: By John LaRosa, Marketdata

2018 — Many start-ups and new businesses have cash flow issues. Very common. One way to lighten the load once in a while is barter — something that has been around a long time but doesn’t get much exposure. There was a time about 20 years ago when some large barter organizations emerged to handle thousands of businesses and transactions without the use of cash. But, you just don’t hear about them any more.

Simply put, barter is the exchange of one service for another, without the use of cash, credit cards, or any form of payment. It can be done directly between one person or company and another, or via some intermediary that keeps track of “credits” that are banked, available for exchange later on.


I’m Joe the plumber, business is slow and I’m short on funds. I need some brochures printed up to advertise my services, which are left in consumers’ mail boxes. Joe goes to a local PIP printing store and says to Jim that if he prints 300 fliers for him, he will do any plumbing repair worth up to $100 like a clogged drain that Jim needs in the future. Jim agrees.

Mary is a local blogger and SEO expert. She has a cat. The next time Mary goes to her cat’s veterinarian, she proposes to the doctor that she’ll provide 5 hours of work on the vet practice’s Facebook page and blog, worth $150, in exchange for her cat’s next wellness visit and shots. The vet agrees. Both are happy.

John owns a pressure washing service. Tax return time is coming soon and John doesn’t have the funds to pay a tax preparation service. John goes to his accountant with a barter proposal–if Bob does his tax return for no payment this year, he will pressure wash Bob’s roof (a service worth $200). They both agree.

I’ve done similar exchanges at Marketdata for decades, in the area of advertising in industry trade journals. When we published a new edition of our report about the Commercial Cleaning Services Industry, a report that usually sold for $1,000 – $1,295, I’d negotiate with the ad managers at several janitorial trade journals read by people in that industry. I’d get them to swap a 1/4-page, once time ad in their magazine, that advertised our report for a copy of our study. A typical 1/4-page B&W ad would cost about $1,000, so it was almost an even exchange. I’d throw in a bonus–the subscribers of their magazine would get a 20% discount off the regular price of our report. No cash or credit card payment involved, just the exchange of “products”. Some magazines said no, but many said yes. Win-win.

Barter has been around since the days of the cavemen. We just forget how easy and common it is. It can’t be used for all transactions, but it can be used for some, to the benefit of both parties. Try it. You may be surprised how well it can work.

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